Why I chose David Mamet for this column
Why I chose David Mamet for this column

There are some 50 reasons to name David Mamet as among our truly great writers, when taking into account those many stage plays, screenplays and books. 

He won a Pulitzer, of course, for probably his best-known work, “Glengarry Glen Ross,” but it is doubtful if he would have won it, or anything else, after his conversion from Liberal to Conservative. He announced his change of heart and mind, 2008, in a Village Voice essay that was read by everyone, including Liberals, who would never forgive.

Since then, he’s been rubbing it in, reminding friends and critics that he is unabashedly pro-USA, pro-Israel, and Jewish to the hilt. 

He now studies Torah regularly, and directly from the original text, Hebrew.  

Quick personal note: I came to this topic last night upon the news that Israel was under heavy bombardment from the usual suspects in Gaza, and asked myself, in this land where Bernie Sanders draws large crowds – is there a Jew left in America who would proclaim loudly that he stands fully for Israel. The one name I came up with, besides myself, was David Mamet.

Up to when Mamet “converted,” life was good. It is still good. But it was better when the reviewers knew nothing of his private life.

In a recent podcast, he tells Ben Shapiro that although he was never their darling, after his coming out, even the good reviews they went back and re-reviewed spitefully.  

They were going to make him pay, as they make everyone pay – everyone who has the nerve, the chutzpah, to depart from their politics.

Suddenly, even the works for which he was justly celebrated, like “The Verdict,” and “The Winslow Boy,” looked DIFFERENT, through their Liberal eyes.

Can it be that arbitrary? Yes, it can. From The New York Times, to The New York Review of Books, to The New Yorker, you are at their mercy. The book you slaved over for 10 years can be swept away in 15 minutes from the hands of a reviewer who has it in for you, for any number of reasons separate from the work itself—which is never given a chance.

That can be tragic, when there is no hope for your Art, when your politics is not their politics, and for that, they either ignore you, or punish you.

We can only wonder how many fine books and movies remain stillborn because, on the part of the literary elites, it is a personal grudge against the artist.

Your labor of love was either smashed against the rocks, or given no life at all.

The venerated director David Lean, “Lawrence of Arabia,” among his classics, remembered a savaging in New York City, when he thought the invitation was to honor him. Instead, they ambushed him for “Ryan’s Daughter.” He was so damaged by that treatment, that he stopped making movies for 14 years.

He says, “You begin to think maybe they’re right. Shakes one’s confidence, you know.”   

But two things…these two virtues Mamet’s got going that they can’t touch – Fame and his good name, Reputation. 

Therefore, he can pursue his Yiddishkeit, and also thumb his nose at them, and continue to write so honestly and wonderfully, 

As he did in his boiler room drama “Glengarry Glen Ross,” which, coincidentally, came out at around the same time that “The Girls of Cincinnati” went public with this oft-quoted exchange in the novel between the Old Salesman, Lou, who lost his touch, so is going rogue, and Eli, the young would-be-New York actor forced to settle as a Cincinnati boiler room operator.

Lou: “Don’t give me that, Eli. I’m as ethical as the next man.”

Eli: “That’s what’s starting to worry me.”

Then, from Mamet in Glengarry, and delivered indelibly by Alec Baldwin on ABCs of salesmanship: “Always Be Closing” …and…” Put that coffee down. Coffee is for closers only.” 

My favorite work of his may be, “The Winslow Boy.” It’s about a crisis, and a national British scandal, when an aristocratically-raised school boy is accused of theft, unjustly. 

So well done, from Terence Rattigan’s original play, which Mamet revised for film and directed.

That telecast came out 1999, as if Mamet foresaw his own fate, condemned for being true to himself. 

So far as writers less famous, artists still seeking fame, or recognition, without Mamet’s fame as a shield, there is this from another stellar playwright, Samuel Beckett:

“I can’t go on. I’ll go on.” 

New York-based bestselling American novelist Jack Engelhard writes regularly for Arutz Sheva.

He wrote the worldwide book-to-movie bestseller “Indecent Proposal,” followed by his coming-of-age classic, “The Girls of Cincinnati,” for which contemporaries have hailed him “The last Hemingway, a writer without peer, and the conscience of us all.” Website: www.jackengelhard.com